On the highway typically you are at fault as you should merge only when it is safe and after signaling. I.E. the person who hit you cannot be held responsible for you choosing to merge without sufficient room.

In a very slow stop and go situation however, once you signal and begin to merge, often aggressive drivers will accelerate and try to prevent you from merging.

This is a different situation where you are in a controlled and low speed traffic regime. You begin to merge and then another driver sees you signal and initiate, then deliberately tries to prevent you from doing so, and then ends up hitting your car.

OP is from California but any input is appreciated.

  • Were the lanes bot regular lanes of traffic, or merge lanes?. Please describe the position of his car with respect to yours. Was he on your left (impact was on the driver's side) or the right (impact was on the passenger's side)? Also was their sufficient space for you to merge had he not pulled forward? Did you and the other driver make any indication that you were both aware of each other beyond your turn signal? Was the cause of the traffic problem that required you to merge into his lane, I.e. construction or lane closure on your lane forcing traffic to divert into his?
    – hszmv
    Sep 9, 2019 at 18:16
  • An accident caused a lane closure forcing left lane to merge right. The car in front of me merged fine and then I waited until there was space (with blinker on), then after initiating entrance with probably 10ft of room the car in the right lane accelerated and tried to prevent me from merging. They didn't hit my car but came very close. What I want to know for future reference is who would be at fault if this person screwed up and hit my right side (front wheel cover, front passenger, rear right passenger if there is a difference). I do not want to enter a default at fault situation.
    – user391339
    Sep 9, 2019 at 18:25
  • I should say right lane traffic was slowly moving forward so this person accelerated several times to try to block me as I continued to merge (not once).
    – user391339
    Sep 9, 2019 at 18:27
  • The police had just showed up blocking left lane FYI (only one car ahead of me)
    – user391339
    Sep 9, 2019 at 18:29
  • Regular lanes of traffic. 3 lane street going moderately uphill.
    – user391339
    Sep 9, 2019 at 18:31

3 Answers 3


There's a couple of things at play here:

1)FTYROW (Failure To Yield Right Of Way)

2)Failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision

As soon as it becomes clear to the merging vehicle that the vehicle in the lane is not going to let them in, and they continue to merge anyway they have done #1.

Then, according to your post:

will accelerate and try to prevent you from merging.

That's item #2.

At this point, it's up to the responding officer to determine fault. On the one hand, the merger failed to yield the right of way, but the accident could also have been avoided if the other vehicle just slowed down a tad. I don't think it would be unreasonable for the officer to conclude that both vehicles are at fault.

  • The right-of-way law in Florida is very clear: Nobody has the right of way. Everybody must yield the right of way whenever it is necessary to prevent an accident. That the other guy failed to do the same is not a defense.
    – EvilSnack
    Nov 18, 2023 at 16:55

I know this is not the answer you want to hear but your situation of having to merge into another lane due to a lane closure is not exceptional. You need to merge so you must ensure that there is enough room in the other lane to do so safely.

I looked at several sections of the California DMV Driver Handbook. The other driver could be considered an aggressive driver. The DMV says to avoid; let them pass, etc.

The Handbook does suggest that a driver let others merge when possible, but it's not a requirement (page 84). This is similar to merging onto a freeway. The freeway traffic has the right-of-way. While the DMV suggests that a driver already on the freeway should speed up or slow down to help traffic that's trying to merge onto the freeway, it's not a requirement.

  • Interesting. I get the highway stuff - that's straightforward. This is a case where merging would occur safely if it weren't for the other driver accelerating repeatedly to try to prevent the other from merging in front of them. It could be argued that the other driver is actually creating an unsafe situation. I guess the best policy is to avoid aggressive drivers where possible though. Interested to find some example cases with crashes that occurred during this sort of stop and go traffic merging.
    – user391339
    Sep 10, 2019 at 2:28
  • 1
    @user391339 i think the idea is that the car already in the lane of traffic has the right of way, and you don't. The other car is not obligated to yield it no matter how slow traffic is.
    – Andy
    Sep 10, 2019 at 9:56
  • 1
    @user391339: I sympathize with your situation and think that other driver is not a nice person. BUT, it's also true that "This is a case where merging would occur safely if" you waited and merged in front of someone who didn't mind giving up their right of way.
    – James
    Sep 10, 2019 at 11:19
  • 1
    Here's a Press-Enterprise story quoting a CHP officer who points out that the driver's handbook is not the definitive interpretation on right-of-way: pe.com/2011/01/03/…: "In this case, the code doesn’t spell out explicitly what drivers should do when entering a freeway, but because the move is considered a merge — not a case of one lane “yielding” to another, which is legally different — drivers in this situation should use common sense to let traffic blend into a single lane safely." Sep 10, 2019 at 21:17

SO not a lawyer but the situation seems to be the fault of the other driver. Considering that there was a traffic incident up ahead (I'm assuming you could see the incident) it's not out of the realm of possibilities that he was well aware of the traffic situation. Given the gap space between you and the driver is 10 feet, and you had already crossed the lane line with your car, properly signaled, had he failed to apply the breaks it would have been because he was aggressively trying to intimidate another driver on the road. I haven't looked up the law, but California does have laws against aggressive driving and road rage, and the driver's behavior could be a violation of the law in and of itself, which greatly puts culpability on the driver if proven. If such an accident occurs, you should get his insurance information and then make sure to get contact information for any witnesses, especially if they can back you you up. If the driver is hostile, call 911 and let them know that you are in an accident and do not feel safe exiting your vehicle and why (the other driver) so there is a record of your statements in the moment. Avoid any statements that could be construed as guilt to the other drive (I am so sorry might be hostile, but a lawyer may use that to imply you knew you did something wrong) and don't be aggressive.

Tactically, in a lane closure I have found that the furthest lane from the accident is going to be the one that moves the quickest and that by waiting until the merge is forced by responding units. The closed lane will merge into the opened lanes in a zipper style (open lane car followed by one closed lane car followed by open lane car) and instructions given by police officers always supercede posted restrictions and rules of ordinary operation (If a cop waves you through a red light, you won't be penalized for driving without the right of way through an intersection.).

Again, ultimately who is at fault is up to the cops who respond and if no summons is given, your insurance company will pay out for you, the other driver's company pays for him, and then the companies deal with each other and the company who's client is at fault reimburses the non-fault driver's company and assess the driver for a higher payment based on their record. You only need to worry if the damage involved an injury to persons or damages in excess of your coverage, both of which don't seem possible based on the speed the other driver could reach before an impact.

Edit: As a general rule, in the United States if two cars are traveling in the same direction, and Car A is in front of Car B, The driver of Car A is usually not responsible for any accident with Car B nor if the force of the impact causes Car A to impact another car ahead of it. In your case, since your car had safely crossed into the other lane and the driver was behind you and still proceed in a manner that would have caused an accident, he would likely be at fault. The more over the line the better, but since you were already in the merging process far enough that he could not overtake you at his present speed, he was effectively the Car B.

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